Sunday, July 5, 2020

Happy Birthday America

Happy Birthday America Welcome to the 244th Anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence. It’s an unusual Fourth, missing most of the fireworks, parades, flyovers, and beaches. Much of America is shut down. Is America at war? Yes. America is fighting two wars at once: Covid-19 and the decomposition of the American ethos and heritage, often referred to as a Culture War. The Coronavirus will be defeated, or at least contained, as with the normal flu. History tells us pandemics run their course. The questions are when and how. Let’s look at the Declaration of Independence. The governing ethos was the Divine Rights of Kings, and sometimes Queens, emperors, sultans, and shahs in 1776. One swore an oath to the Crown who had near absolute power over the people. Some dents were made in England under the Magna Carta of 1215, but the British rulers remained autocrats, bending the legal system to their bow. 55 men on July 4, 1776 signed the Declaration of Independence, pledging “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” They would have been hanged and properties forfeited if the Redcoats had won the War. “We hold these truths to be self-evident ….” 1,500 words; 1,500 words of one of the most revolutionary documents in world history. An experiment in self-government, the freedom of the individual, was unleashed on the world. “We hold these rights to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The concept was the people would control government rather than the government people, especially the Divine Right of Kings. That governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed” was revolutionary. It still is in much of the world. 1788 saw the writing of the Constitution followed in 1791 with the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights grants us our freedoms and liberties. The purpose was to protect the people against the government. The critical provision in the Constitution was Article V which allows the Constitution to be amended. The Constitution has thus been able to evolve over 232 years. The founding documents put America on the course to American exceptionalism. America was an experiment in unleashing the human spirit. Immigrants from around the globe fled poverty, oppression, and semi-serfdom in the old country to seek opportunity in the New World. American became a people, but not one based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or skin color, but on a culture, ethos, and shared values. Equality is the goal. Equality of Opportunity not result. American history, as with the history of any people, has shameful periods: the Native Americans, slavery and Jim Crow, the anti-Asian animus, starting with Chinese immigrants, especially on the West Coast, limited rights for women, periods of xenophobia and racial discrimination. Only the 5% of white, property owners had voting rights at the nation’s founding. The genius of America, especially but not exclusively through the Constitution and Bill of Rights, has been over the span of 244 years to rectify those wrongs. The dreams of the founders will never be completely fulfilled. Lenin’s socialistic dreams floundered early into a dictatorship. America has evolved and grown through constitutional amendments, statues, demographics, and the openness of the American people to change and grow. Sadly, we don’t study them much in school anymore with many educators teaching what’s wrong with America. Especially ”Civics” and even courses in American history are rarely required today. They are taught America is a racist country, the new phrase being “systemic racism.” They are taught that America fosters inequity. They believe the New York Times 1609 Project which says America was built upon slavery introduced by England in Virginia in 1609. America They are taught that the slave freed themselves. Lincoln simple issues a paper. They are taught systemic racism keeps Blacks and Hispanics down in America. Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer for her 1609 Project, claimed “The Patriots fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America.” No serious scholar believes that. These propositions are a large part the drivel that is being taught in many schools and colleges today, portrayed in Hollywood, reinforced by the mainstream media, and spread through social media to the impressionable young people, ignorant of American history. They believe in concepts of White Privilege, microaggressions, hate speech, safe spaces, and systemic, capitalistic inequality, leading to intolerance. The Founders wanted to build on their existing rights; today’s nihilist want to destroy, deconstruct America’s ethos and heritage to create a whole new system, whatever that is, probably socialism. Sounds like the French Revolution and Madam Guillotine. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862 is not valued. It did not end slavery. It offered freedom to the 3.5 million slaves in the Confederacy who could walk to freedom in the lines of the Union Army. • "That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” It required a constitutional amendment, the 13th Amendment, to end slavery throughout the United States. President Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore yesterday, a flashpoint in the new Cultural War because it honors two slave owners, Presidents Washington and Jefferson, and Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt because they are, I guess, Lincoln and Roosevelt. The President spoke to traditional American values. Several commentators accused him of igniting the cultural wars. ”Igniting” is an interesting choice of words. I do not see President Trump igniting police stations, police cars, restaurants, retailers, and churches. I do not see President Trump tearing down and even burning monuments. I don’t see President Trump defacing the Jefferson Memorial, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Grant’s monument, and the Pioneer Woman’ statute. Nor do I see President Trump seeking to remove Walt Whitman from Rutgers Camden. The actions of these mostly young, nihilistic radicals remind me of the young people unleashed by Chairman Mao in his Cultural Revolution, the Taliban blowing up the Buddhas, and ISIS destroying the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria. Culture wars? The Democratic National Committee deleted this tweet Tuesday: “Now he’s holding a rally glorifying White Supremacy at Mount Rushmore – a region once sacred to tribal entities.” Joe Biden’s remarks today said America’s history is “Fairy Tales.” He added America needs to end systemic racism, whatever that is. Joe Biden has always been a weathervane of the Democratic Party. Systemic Racism? The new buzz words. Systemic racism in a country which twice overwhelmingly elected an African American as President? Systemic racism in a country with three African American, three Asian and four Hispanic Senators? Senator Kamala Harris is both African American and Asian. 116 current House of Representatives are non-white. General Colin Powell served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President George W. Bush’s two Secretaries of State were General Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Kenneth Chenault retired 2018 after two decades as Chairman and CEO of American Express. African Americans serve as attorney generals, district attorneys, mayors, and police chiefs, as well as university presidents. African Americans have been governors of Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia. Hollywood, broadcasting, and the media are wide open today to diversity. Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA were all African American women in 2019. Systemic racism – NO! It’s just a catchy, political campaign tagline probably run through focus groups. Of course problems exist. Housing discrimination continues. Too many live in cramped multi-generation housing. Consumer fraud is a problem. Law enforcement has kept a boot on the communities. Crime. Medical care can be poor with large numbers of asthmatics and diabetics, with hypertension, and cardiac conditions common. Problems in the inner cities – Definitely. The way up and out is usually through education, the military, music, and sports. Scores of books and sociology reports have been written on the problems of the cities, especially inner cities. Here’s a limited take by me. Nikole Hannah-jones is absolutely right about the education problems in the inner cities, but she’s wrong about the current reason. Racism was a major historic cause, including racial redistricting of school zones. The public schools are often failing. Individual teachers and principals make a difference for many students, but many schools do not fairly serve the students. If students can climb their way out of the inner city, overcoming obstacles, then a phrase from decades ago comes into play: “To be young, gifted, and Black.” Favoritism awaits in the colleges and the job market. The problem is not racism, but the lack of charter schools. Parents strive to give their children a meaningful education. The elected officials in these cities are progressive Democrats, but not with charter schools. They have entered into an unholy alliance with the teachers unions to block, suppress, defund, and otherwise cripple charter schools. The result is to condemn many inner city primary and secondary school students to an inferior education. A large coterie of charter schools can put competitive pressures on the public schools, which is intolerable to the monopolistic teachers unions. Changes in a democracy come through the democratic process, not by mob rule. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Cesar Chavez proved non-violent action can drive change and reform. I’m proud to be an American. I’m not proud of some of our history. America has come a long way righting the wrongs of the past, fulfilling the aspirations of the nation’s founders, slaveowners or not.

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